I ended my last blog post on the expertise approach by saying that using the expertise approach to study interpreting will require some more development of the different constructs. I was talking about how to operationalize Ericsson’s and Smith’s three step general method for investigating expert performance. The first step says that the researcher should start with “a detailed analysis of the investigated domain and the skills necessary for experts in that domain and a systematic mapping of cognitive processes for the specific skill”.
As far as I know, there is no exhaustive analysis of the skills necessary for experts in the domain of interpreting, but there are several proposals of lists or typologies. And all of us involved in interpreting can come up with longer or shorter lists. In fact just think about the description of what you need to start interpreting school:
- - Perfect command in most domains of your mother tongue and at least perfect understanding of the foreign languages you work from.
- - Ability to adapt quickly from one situation to the other.
- - Ability to grasp quickly, conclude and anticipate next step.
- - Ability to quickly formulate in another language what you have just heard in one language.
- - Ability to listen and speak simultaneously (at least if you work with simultaneous interpreting).
This is by no means an exhaustive list it just gives an idea of what we have to deal with, when analyzing the skills necessary for experts. Another tricky thing is that a person can very well master these skills without having the ability to interpret, let alone become an expert interpreter. I know many people who have perfect native levels in two languages who are not interpreters, but neither would or could interpret. Maybe you do too.